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Mark Mills Big Sur/Carmel CA

Posted: Sun Aug 08, 2010 9:53 pm
by mdgraham
I just discovered this website and prior posts related to Mark Mills. A 2-part documenatry of his work was aired in Dec. 2004 in the Monterey area. Has anyone ever seen it or purchased? Also, not all contributing to the Mark Mills 'Wild Bird' posting in Feb 2010 have emails to contact directly. Hoping hypnoragun sees this as the flickr photos are no longer posted/available of Wild Bird and would like to view unless they are the same in Forgotten Modern. I was saddened to hear Mr. Mills passed away in June 2007 and hope to research him and his work. Any knowledge and input would be appreciated. mg

Posted: Tue Aug 10, 2010 2:44 pm
by Wrightgeek

Welcome to Wright Chat. Although I have never seen or head of the doc film you mention re: Mark Mills, I think we here would all be quite interested to see it.

Unfortunately due to a security issue here on our chat board, email addresses were taken down about a year or so ago.

Please stay involved; we'd love to hear more from you and anything about the work of Mr. Mills that you can add.

Mark Mills documentary

Posted: Tue Aug 10, 2010 3:06 pm
by mdgraham
To the best of my recent knowledge, it does not look like Mark Mills was an AIA member. I spoke with someone who did the video camera work on it and that 'co-op' styled studio in Monterey, but he does not have a video source where I can purchase. I am still looking and as soon as I find I'll post. Meanwhile, Janey Bennett ( has posted an article and photos on Mark Mills that you will all enjoy if not already known. She wants to publish a book on Mark so I will do all I can to help her.
Comments from all after reading her piece would be great!
btw the flickr photos previously posted of Mark's work are no longer up. I would love to look at them if one of you can list the 'source'.

Posted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 5:06 pm
by Penteliko
Greetings everyone! I created this account solely for the thread we're in:

The entire account of Wild Bird's creation is contained in the out of print autobiography THE SPACES IN BETWEEN: AN ARCHITECT'S JOURNEY by Nathaniel Alexander Owings.

I can't give it a higher recommendation. Too many stupendous anecdotes to list. Find it. Buy it. Read it. You will adore it.

Posted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 6:03 pm
by mdgraham
Thank you Penteliko. I found a used copy for less than 10.00 on after reading posts on this site in August about Wild Bird. I recommend to all for insight into SOM's incredible rise and timing as a nat'l. firm.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that Mark Mills was the architect/designer of Wild Bird, with input from a proactive architect client. With all respect to Nat Owings, a fellow Cornell AAP alumni, he was an architect not a master builder. THe scale of SOM projects, celebrated by many, were not on the caliber of a jewel box like Wild Bird. Only an architect with the sensitivity of scale and clarity of what a site needed could have achieved this design.
Architect in FLL, FL

Posted: Fri Nov 05, 2010 10:50 pm
by Penteliko
Owings leaves no doubt:
Every step of the way in building our house was special, from the scale model of the site with every rock in place, through architect Mark Mills' sensitive handling of the working drawings, to the choice of the redwood timbers from the old Torre Canyon bridge.

[Emphasis added.]

Nathaniel Owings, The Spaces in Between, p. 190
Beauty, though, remains subjective. Both Crown Zellerbach and Wild Bird bring me great aesthetic pleasure. I speak, of course, for none but me. As is the limit of every person's opinion.

Mark Mills

Posted: Sat Nov 06, 2010 10:28 am
by mdgraham
The Nat Owings books (I have both) illustrates much on the firm's practice, growth and staff in the 3 main offices, and Nat's own observations, experience and sensitivity to nature. The 3 SOM partners had strengths that complimented each other. As is the case with any talented designers coming into a firm whether at entry/recent grad level or seasoned, the firm banner and partners will always credit themselves with the design.
I have never seen a single family residence or design/build residence on the list of SOM projects. The book also lists on page 190 the local master craftsmen that built the house, who worked on many of Mark Mills projects. There has been past documentation on Mark Mills projects that he was hands on and in person on the construction, as he was trained as a master builder at Taliesin, not unlike John Lautner.
Check out Taliesin Legacy on both MM and JL. Mr. Owings was Cornell educated not Taliesin apprenticed. Huge difference.

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:06 pm
by hypnoraygun
Penteliko wrote:Greetings everyone! I created this account solely for the thread we're in:

The entire account of Wild Bird's creation is contained in the out of print autobiography THE SPACES IN BETWEEN: AN ARCHITECT'S JOURNEY by Nathaniel Alexander Owings.

I can't give it a higher recommendation. Too many stupendous anecdotes to list. Find it. Buy it. Read it. You will adore it.
Upon the recommendation above, I ordered a used copy online. It said it was inscribed by the author.. It was very cheap, so I didn't think much about it. I received it yesterday and inside it is inscribed by Nathaniel Alexander Owings. I looked up who it was inscribed to, Bruce Lutz.. And I found this.. (see below) Interesting!! His connection with Skidmore, Owings and Merrill seem to connect the dots..

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 3:40 pm
by mdgraham
Hypnoraygun - Great find on the book, I bought my copy in August after reading this thread on Mark Mills.
If you know Mark Mills work, you will love the photos in the Nat Owings book of Wild Bird, and the several pages devoted to the design and construction. The house is a true gem. He also is profiled in Taliesin Legacy which has limited availability.

Posted: Sat Nov 20, 2010 10:02 pm
by Education Professor
mdgraham--I agree that Wild Bird is a true gem. It is a remarkable design in the most extraordinary of settings. Besides the book by Owings, here are the resources I've located so far on Wild Bird:

Forgotten Modern, book by Weintraub and Hess (extraordinary photos)

House Beautiful, February 1961
A very detailed article, including interior/exterior photos and drawings. Thanks to hypnoraygun for the tip about this article.

Architectural Digest, June 1996 (nice article with striking photos)

Dwell magazine, July/August 2004 (short article about Mark Mills with a brief mention of Wild Bird)

Time magazine, December 28, 1959 (brief article)

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 11:25 am
by mdgraham
Education Professor -
Thank you for sharing the other articles on Mark Mills and Wild Bird. I will be searching for the library microfilm on these older periodicals tomorrow.
I purchased Forgotten Modern this summer when I read on this thread that Mark was included. I have an article from House and Garden January 1970 on Mark's house overlooking the ocean for June Foster Haas and understand many of his houses were published in that magazine.
I found a Mark Mills house for sale in Big Sur ... 2927-53852
stunning photos of the siting and interior.
He really was a master builder architect!

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 3:17 pm
by Roderick Grant
18 acres of Big Sur for $5,000,000?! All the properties listed seem cheap for Big Sur, possibly the most beautiful place on Earth. Things must be really bad in real estate.

Mark Mills house for sale in Big Sur

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 4:55 pm
by mdgraham
Big Sur Masterpiece
Scroll down to sixth listing (I was incorrect he did not design the Dragon House but it looks like that architect tried to copy MM).
Yes $5 mil seems very reasonable for Big Sur property. Perhaps age of owners is driving a sale? Insurance and property taxes are probably not such a bargain.
There is 160 acres of redwood forest w/house for $1.75 mil but not a MM design on the same link.
The beauty is there are likely restrictions on construction so those acres will not be developed.

Posted: Sun Nov 21, 2010 5:43 pm
by Education Professor
mdgraham--thanks for the additional info. I'll be sure to check it out as soon as possible.

I agree, Mr. Grant, the price seems to be somewhat of a "bargain" for this type of Big Sur property. I vaguely recall reading somewhere that Wild Bird was listed in the $6-$8 million range about 10 years ago (following Mrs. Owings' passing) and was purchased by someone from the UK.

Another Mills resource is the book NorCalMod. Several of his designs are featured (although I don't believe that Wild Bird is listed).

Also, one of Mills' A-frame cottages is featured in the book Cottages on the Coast by Linda Leigh Paul.


Posted: Mon Nov 22, 2010 2:02 pm
by Roderick Grant
I haven't seen the Paul book, but I suspect the A-frame is the one MM designed in Carmel, a real gem of a cottage for a bachelor. Unfortunately, later owners expanded the house so that the original structure (based on what was posted a few years ago when it was on the market) has become a small part of a sprawling mess.